Tag Archives: professor Vaclav Konecny

NANOWRIMO DAY 13

Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West with excerpt

On this Day 13 of the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) 50k word challenge, I navigated through the two parts of the Greenwich Meridian memoir about our family immigration saga from former Czechoslovakia to the U.S.

Even though, I logged in only 1,044 words with chapter “Dad defects the second time,” I moved the project ahead by joining the most recent notes from mom and dad with the first storytelling part by storyteller Emma. Now, this was crucial, since until recently, I did not know what to do with the different points of view on the same immigration story.

Take a look at what the storyteller has to say about dad’s second escape in chapter “Dad defects the 2nd time.”

Excerpt: Dad defects the 2nd time

Well-respected professor of math, Vaclav Konecny

Years went by before I found out what had really happened. My parents plotted the second escape together. Mom even risked that she wouldn’t be able to leave the country to join dad. 

“I knew about your dad’s plan,” she told me during an interview in Venice, Florida in March of 2013. 

“You never said a thing back then,” I said. 

“I couldn’t say anything that would jeopardize the entire plan,” mom said. 

I thought that was really brave on both of their parts. Anything could have gone wrong. First of all, the country was under the hard- line communism rule of the 70s and 80s. The borders with Austria and Germany were guarded heavily. Then the situation was exacerbated by my parents’ first escape to Canada in April of 1970. 

They had a record from the trial, and from the files of the Secret Police StB after returning to Czechoslovakia for the 1973 amnesty. I could have been thrown out of school, and they could have lost the apartment on the “Southern Slopes.” And my dad would end up in jail serving his sentence and more time for his second escape. 

Dad left the second time on his 42nd birthday on August 23, 1976 from Zlin to Slovakia, Hungary and Rumania. He crossed the border between Rumania and Yugoslavia at Puerta Fiera, and from Yugoslavia to Austria where he switched plates for a German license plate. 

“I just unscrewed it from another car at the border, when no one was looking,” he said. 

He also had a black dingy just in case he needed to cross the Danube River into Austria. My parents painted it turquoise like the water. Dad trained how long he can stay under water at Lake Macha in Bohemia, Czech Republic. Dad has always been an excellent swimmer. 

“I sold the boat for a can of Hungarian goulash,” he laughed in Venice, FL. 

He waited in Germany at an auto camp for half a year before he got his green card. A friend from California helped out with the embassy dealings. Dad called Jarvis Christian College in Hawkins, Texas from Germany, and was offered a job with a smaller salary than before. 

“I had to start all over again, right from the beginning,” he said. “I stayed at the Pettis Motel and in one half of a mobile home.” 

The punishment for the second escape, because dad was considered a repeat offender, was 3.5 years in a third- degree correctional facility in Czech Republic. 

Even today when I close my eyes, I have trouble imagining my gentle dad, a well-respected math professor, with gray blue eyes escaping across the borders at several check points with a painted dingy, unscrewing license plates and living in an auto camp, or at worse sitting in a correctional facility in a striped jumpsuit like any other jailbird. 

My dad is a very balanced individual, infinitely patient, kind and he does not like taking risks, even though he is an adventurer. 

But dad is also very motivated, accomplished and thorough. I can imagine all the nights, my parents sat with maps under a lamp, designing the second plan of escape; this time together. 

One can never know a relative well enough, even if the relative is as close as a parent. What I find in the second escape inspiring, is the fact that dad followed through on the plan. He had two plans of escape as he described in his own words in the chapter titled: “How professor of math escaped Czechoslovakia.” 

Copyright (c) 2019. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

NANOWRIMO DAYS 9 &10

Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West

With a relative warm up of 40 F this morning, I got up early in the dark so I could plug away at the Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West memoir about our family immigration saga before church.

This is my 10th writing day in a row in the NaNoWriMo 50K word challenge.

I am using my mom’s timeline from 1959 to present to navigate through the important milestones in the epic tale covering three continents and two generations.

Mom's diary
Mom’s diary

These include: years in Khartoum, Sudan from Nov. 1964 to March 1970, in Saskatoon, CA from April 1970 to Oct. 1970 and in Hawkins, TX from Nov. 1970 to June 1973.

In the book, this timeline transfers into three draft chapters titled: Years in Africa, On the run and Into North America.

I am still working on Save the Cat Beat Sheet (NaNo-style) for the first half of the memoir.

On NaNoWriMo Day 9, Saturday Nov. 9, I pulled together Save the Cat Beat Sheet (NaNo-style) for the second half of the memoir.

Excerpt from chapter “Years in Africa.”

The politics in former Czechoslovakia loosened up and dad pursued a job opportunity in Khartoum, Sudan because he feared the religious prohibition in the socialist country guided by the Marxist philosophy.

In 1961, Sudan gained independence from the British and was opening up to the world. Vice-chancellor Daffala of th University of Khartoum was recruiting experts from Europe to teach at the university. 

“He invited me for an interview, and I was hired,” dad said. 

Dad was hired in 1964 to teach applied mathematics which equals theoretical physics at the university. The university was affiliated with the University of London. 

“The university was the Harvard of Africa, “dad said. “It was the best university on the continent.” 

Dad was allowed to leave Czechoslovakia through the Department of Education, while other experts obtained governmental clearance through the Polytechnic Institute, known as Polytechna. 

Mom, my brother Vaclav and I joined dad in 1965 for what my parents called, “the best time in their lives.” It was a joyful ride that lasted a few years. Among the things that shocked me first, was the fact that we had to be vaccinated against malaria. All I knew were shots against kids’ diseases, and malaria wasn’t one of them in Czechoslovakia. 

A total of 30 families made up the Czech expert community in Khartoum, located amidst the sands of the Sahara Desert. We lived in an apartment complex, Pink Palace that had a palace-like building in the center for the management. 

“There were no food lines like in Czechoslovakia,” said dad. “We had everything: meat, oranges, bananas, olives.” 

The Czech community in Khartoum was like the exotic textiles sold at the souqs or at the exquisite shops on high streets in downtown. It was tightly woven together by the forthcoming freedom of the Prague Spring reformist movement.  

“Unlike back home we felt at ease with other people,” mom said. 

The Czech and Slovak community consisted of ambassadors, members of the Department of Commerce, and the teachers from the Department of Education; a diverse and adventurous bunch.  

“We all lived at the same location, so we got together quite often,” said mom. 

The embassy was a cultural center; it was a formal social outlet nestled in a society that also struggled to find its own identity. On the other hand, the Pink Palace apartment complex served as an informal platform for Czechs and Slovaks to reminisce about home, as well as to weave dreams about the future in a free country. 

“I gained experience, new outlook and knowledge, and I met different people,” dad said. 

To be continued………

Copyright (c) 2019 Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

NANAOWRIMO DAY 8

The structure of Greenwich Meridian- Save the Cat! Beat Sheet (NaNo- Style)

By Emma Palova

I woke up in the dark to a freezing morning. The temperature was 23 degrees Fahrenheit, we’re 30 degrees below average November temperatures in Michigan; perfect weather for writing.

I logged in a total of 16,336 words on my NaNo 2019 dashboard that tracks daily writing progress in the National Novel Writing Month 50K challenge. My daily count was only sligthly above 1,000 words, but I organized the structure of the memoir according to Save the Cat! beat sheet for graphic novels.

Structure of Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West NaNo- Style

I introduced my dad math professor Vaclav Konecny as a young man on the brink of his first adventure, unhappy with the status quo in the communist Czechoslovakia in mid 1960s.

Here is an excerpt:

Young math professor Vaclav Konecny feared the communist regime that prohibited the society to practice religion and the teachers were the main target of this religious prohibition in Czechoslovakia under the Marxist philosophy.

Ironically, he studied at an austere seminary in Kromeriz where he acquired his iron-clad discipline that lasts to this day.

He grabbed the opportunity to teach Applied Mathematics in Khartoum, Sudan as a way out of the restrictions that he called the “cage” in 1964.

To be continued

Copyright (c) 2019 Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

nanowrimo Day 6

Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West

Excerpt: How professor of math escaped Czechoslovakia

By Emma Palova

It’s snowing and it is freezing cold outside, as I am done with my morning writing session on day 6 of the National Novel Writing Month 50K word challenge. My shrubs in the garden are covered with snowflakes.

For my #NaNoWriMo 2019 project, I am working on the completion of the Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West memoir about our family immigration saga from former Czechoslovakia to the U.S.

Professor Vaclav Konecny at Ferris State University.

This epic tale covers a span of more than 50 years and historic events from Prague Spring in 1968 to Velvet Revolution in 1989 and beyond that propelled the story into an adventure between three continents: Europe, Africa and North America.

Thanks to the prep work that I did in October, the research in previous years, and my parents’ accounts of their experiences, I am moving swiftly between the historic events that have formed our lives.

Here is an excerpt from chapter: “How professor of math escaped Czechoslovakia.”

Different options of escape seemed risky, because the borders were guarded against the people of the country, so they wouldn’t escape, not against some outside enemy. Soldiers and their dogs were dangerous; the life of a Czech or Slovak person meant less than the life of a rabbit. I assumed that the border patrol in other countries would be less dangerous.  

So, I decided to escape either from Rumania or Bulgaria. I diligently analyzed reports from other tourists to these countries. It was interesting that the officials were issuing quickly passports to socialist countries. I applied and to my surprise I was issued a passport in Brno on July 7, 1976. My situation became easier even though the passport was without an exit clause to any capitalist country. So I was free to travel in Eastern Europe.  I used my three-week vacation to get ready for the escape. 

Excerpt from escape to be continued

Copyright (c) 2019. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.

Dad professor Konecny

Contributor Profile

I found my dad Vaclav Konecny’s contributor profile for the Crux Mathematicorum math magazine of the Canadian Mathematical Society on the Internet yesterday.

20181220_1412326910501251751484398.jpg

I am including it in one of the chapters of the Greenwich Meridian: Where East meets West memoir. The title of the chapter is: Contributor Vaclav Konecny.

Below is a link to the pdf.

ContributorProfile_36_5 Konecny

Dad still contributes to the magazine, either by proposing math & geometry problems or by solving them. He received an honorable mention as one of the six problemists of 1996, who had participated in one-third of the solutions for the year.

My Escape from Czechoslovakia

Another document of great value is his letter: “My Escape from Czechoslovakia” dated Nov. 18, 1976 to the Department of State in Washington D.C.

As a true mathematician, dad, in great detail, describes his journey through various border crossings between four different countries. He even describes his alternative plan. Here is an excerpt:

I made two plans:

  1. To get from Eastern block through some check point
  2. To go to Bulgaria-Micurin- and swim to Turkey. I exercised a lot for this purpose and I was well prepared.

But plan one worked out okay.

Law-abiding citizen Vaclav

What fascinates me the most about his escape story is that he used any means necessary to get to his target; that is a Western country that would give him visa to re-enter USA.  My father is a law-abiding citizen who never breaks any rules. And he definitely never breaks his own tough rules, forged by the years spent at the Archbishop Seminary in Kromeriz.

However, in his escape journey, he had to resort to lying and deception. Dad even came very close to breaking traffic rules in Yugoslavia.

“I went as fast as the traffic rules allowed to Belgrade. I was stopped by police there, but they let me go even if it were just in the opposite direction to Sophia. I reported to Mrs. Julia Cardozo-Neitzke, U.S. Consul on July 27, 1976. No embassy wanted to issue me visa, but after enormous effort of the U.S. Embassy I got German visa.”

His Contributor Profile closes with the following statement:

“Vaclav’s sincerest hope is for world peace.”

Thanks dad for so much inspiration.

Note: Dad Vaclav and mom Ella currently winterize in Venice, FL. I will be joining them for my annual writer’s retreat in February.

Copyright (c) 2018. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.